Russia warned U.S. ‘ahead of latest Syria strikes’

Moscow would also increase its air strikes on terrorists in Syria, a senior Russian army official said on Saturday

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Russia had warned the United States ahead of launching its air strikes and recommended that the United States stop its own flights in areas where Russia’s air force was operating, a senior Russian army official said on Saturday.

Andrei Kartapolov from the Russian army’s General Staff, said Russia’s Air Force had targeted more than 50 Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) objects in its air strikes.

Kartapolov added in a statement that Russian intelligence “shows that militants are leaving areas under their control. Panic and desertion have started in their ranks… Some 600 mercenaries have abandoned their positions and are trying to find their way into Europe.”

Russia would also increase its air strikes on terrorists in Syria, the official said.

“We will not only continue strikes..., we will also increase their intensity,” said Kartapolov, according to RIA news agency.

“The Americans told us during discussions, that no one apart from terrorists were in that region,” Kartapolov said, referring to the area where Russia’s Air Force was active, according to Interfax.

Another defense ministry official, Igor Konashenkov, said earlier that Su-34 and Su-24M fighters took part in strikesn over Syria.

Sunday marked the fourth day of air strikes by Moscow in support of President Bashar al-Assad which have dramatically escalated foreign intervention in Syria.

Strong criticism

Russia’s air campaign in Syria, where a U.S.-led air coalition and fighters on the ground from regional states are already entangled in the four-year-old civil war, has drawn strong criticism from the United States and its allies, including Saudi Arabia and the UK.

Only one in 20 Russian air strikes in Syria are aimed at ISIS targets, Britain's defence secretary said on Saturday, warning that Vladimir Putin was instead killing civilians to shore up the Assad regime.

In an interview with the Sun newspaper, British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said the vast majority of Russian air strikes were not aimed at the militant group at all.

“Our evidence indicates they are dropping unguided munitions in civilian areas, killing civilians, and they are dropping them against the Free Syrian forces fighting Assad,” he said. “He's shoring up Assad and perpetuating the suffering.”

At least 39 civilians, including eight children and eight women, have been killed in Russian air strikes in Syria in the past four days, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday.

It said 14 fighters had been killed - 12 from ISIS around the eastern city of Raqqa, and two from the Al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front. Observatory director Rami Abdulrahman said the figures only included those which had been verified.

(With Reuters)

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